Go back twenty years and your choice of tonic water was pretty limited in terms of not only brands but also flavours. But spurred by the unstoppable rise in the popularity of gin in recent years, this natural bedfellow has become a billion dollar industry in its own right.
Tonic water – or ‘Indian tonic water’ to be more precise – originated in early 19th century India as a medicinal drink for British soldiers, colonists and traders. At that time, malaria was rampant across the sub-continent but quinine from the bark of the cinchona tree (a native species to Peru but later introduced to India) was found to be an effective treatment and preventative. Indian’s referred to the cichona tree as the ‘fever tree’.
Quinine powder was mixed with soda water and sugar but it was still very bitter to drink, so the British mixed it with gin to make it more palatable and – hey presto – the G&T was born. Whilst quinine is still found in tonic water, its now in a much lower quantity – whilst the sugar content had increased – so has a much sweeter and quaffable flavour profile.
Tonic water has a unique visual quality: under ultraviolet light it will glow blue-purple. You can also get the effect by holding your glass against a dark background on a sunny day.
Today, there are literally hundreds of tonic waters to choose from around the world, many combining with other fruit, herb and spice botanicals to create unique flavour profiles. No longer seen as mixer exclusively for gin, brands such as Royal Bliss – headline sponsor of The Hague Cocktail Week – have developed their range of creative premium tonic waters in partnership with top bartenders around the world.
So there is definitely one out there that's the perfect tonic for you.
The first commercial tonic water was produced in 1858.
In 2017, the global tonic water consumer market size was US$530 million and is forecast to be US$980 million by 2025.
Approximately 75% of tonic sold is regular tonic, with diet/slimline tonic taking around 20%.
The USA is the largest consumer market for tonic water, with Europe coming in a close second. However the demand in Asia-Pacific is growing at a faster rate than either the US or Europe.
Europe is still the largest producer of tonic water.
One of the main global brands – Fevertree – floated on the London stock exchange in 2014. At the time the company was worth UK£2.4 billion, and exported to over 50 countries. By the middle of 2018, the company was worth UK£4.5 billion.